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'AITA for making my SIL cry at her baby shower by suggesting we should stop exchanging gifts?'

'AITA for making my SIL cry at her baby shower by suggesting we should stop exchanging gifts?'

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"AITA for making my SIL cry at her baby shower by suggesting we should stop exchanging gifts in the future?"

I come from a fairly well off family, and my husband and I do well (although we both work high demand jobs for it). We’ve always been very generous to his side of the family. Gifts are very much both my husband and my “love language” and in my culture (Chinese), elaborate gifts to inlaws are very socially acceptable as a way to show they are held in high esteem.

It also helps with some of our guilt for being super busy and not always around. Additionally, my side of the family exchanges generous gifts. One concern of mine originally was to treat my husband’s family the same as my family, i.e. by not spending way more on my family than his.

Last Christmas, we had some weirdness over Christmas day present opening. I had purchased a lovely cashmere throw for SIL (husband’s brother’s wife). She googled the brand and price then and there (which kind of annoyed me) and later I overheard her make some joke about how she could pay “half a mortgage payment.”

Several hours later during brunch, someone asked her what was wrong (she seemed upset) and she confessed that our presents always make her feel bad, she’s tired of us “throwing our money” in her and her husband’s face, and Christmas has become really stressful with pressure over gift giving.

Husband and I apologized profusely, and did some self reflection afterwards on the unintentional effects of elaborate gift giving and decided to go more low key in the future. Although a little part of it has always sat poorly with me since.

This past Saturday, I attended a baby shower for the same SIL. It’s the first gift giving occasion since Christmas and I really wanted to do it carefully. I asked a coworker who recently had a baby what range is typically appropriate (she said she mostly got gifts between $30-$50) and so I decided on three little things from the registry totaling just over $30.

Anyways, at the shower it becomes clear that while certainly most gifts were in the $30-50 range, all attendees who were family members seemed to give more like $100 gifts. Near the end of the event, MIL pulled me aside and said that SIL felt like I was being spiteful to her for Christmas.

I again apologized and as a cover, said that husband and I had written a check for the little one’s college fund as well but didn’t feel it was appropriate to hand to her during the present opening. Then I scurried off to the bathroom and wrote a check for $100.

When I found SIL by herself for a second I handed her the check and explained that we wanted to give her this earlier but present opening seemed like a bad time. She looked at the check and kind of bitchily said, “We don’t need your money.”I kind of snapped and told her bluntly (and not like yelling, but not like in hushed tones either - people nearby apparently definitely overheard) that her that I was tired of her sh!t

and if it made her feel better, we could just stop exchanging presents in the future. She started crying and I immediately left. I’ve been getting my texts from everyone in the family and her best friend about how I ruined the baby shower ever since.

Edit 1 for additional context: My husband and his family are American and we live in the US. We are in our early/mid 30s, my BIL is 28 and SIL is 24 or 25.)

Edit 2: I realized her comment might have made the xmas gift sound way more than it was. The throw was 320 pounds, which isn’t quite half a mortgage payment, but not cheap either. I purchased it for her during an business trip to Scotland last year.

It is not fancy looking or flashy at all (light grey) and not a obvious “ designer” brand, just an old Scottish maker. It was intended to be good quality and last many years. If she hadn’t looked it up I don’t think it would have been an obviously expensive gift.)

What do you think? AITA? This is what top commenters had to say:

Shadowhammer61 said:

NTA. How is it your fault? You give her expensive stuff, she has a problem. You give her cheap stuff, she has a problem. Due to this , you suggest that not giving gifts is better and she starts crying. What does she want?

chaoticsorrow said:

NTA. It can be difficult exchanging gifts with family where one party earns more/less (and I've been on both sides), but SIL can't have her cake and eat it. She either accepts graciously (which 'throwing money in her face' does not equal), or goes along with your plan like an adult.

SIL is a child who wants to have her cake and eat it too, and has deep seated issues with your comparative earnings. She needs to grow the fuck up and go to therapy. MIL needs to piss off.

una_88 said:

NTA. Seems to me like there’s some jealousy and resentment going on about how much you and your husband make, and no matter what you do, SIL will be upset. You’ve tried your best to appease her and clearly what she thought of you and your husband mattered to the both of you very much,

but you can’t keep walking this weird tightrope just to calm her insecurities. Also I think now that you’ve said your bit openly, it might help your relationship actually.

And WantDiscussion said:

NTA, you did everything you could to be accommodating and she threw it in your face.

Most commenters agreed NTA. Except for artzbots, who said:

I'm gonna buck the trend and go with ESH, even if it's unintentional. Y'all need to use your words and actually talk to each other. You need to tell your SiL that for you, giving expensive gifts makes YOU feel good, that you could afford this nice thing as a gift to someone you care about. That you went for less expensive gifts for her baby shower because of what she said at Christmas

because you wanted her to feel good about these gifts and not feel weird or guilty that she can't afford to reciprocate, and then panicked when you learned you budgeted too little. And your SiL needs to get over the fact that she can't spend as much on gifts, and that people want to give her nice things as a form of affection, not as some mind game "I'm better than you" sh!t.

Use your words and actually talk to each other. Give yourselves space to cool down and actually communicate to each other, directly.

And OP responded:

I hope I can explain somewhat - I felt embarrassed at Christmas and did not want to bring it up again, but my husband and I talked it over and set a $100 limit on future Christmases but I hadn’t thought of showers at the time.

When this came up a few months later, I thought it would be kind of petty of me to bring up the awkwardness at Christmas with the family and purposely ask for permission (I don’t know why I thought it would come off petty) so I asked my coworker. When she gave me a range,

I didn’t really think of the difference between friend-range and family-range so I thought $50 was a lot and $30 was the minimum so I picked out a few things adding up to $33 and thought it would be fine. I was concerned that if I went to $100, it would still be double the top of the range and still uncomfortable. Also for some reason i thought that Christmas was a bigger deal than baby showers

I do agree the cheque was bad - in my culture we do often give cash gifts (I know not to in most cases) and we typically put it in a red envelope. I had heard of college funds before so thought maybe it was an exception for kids.

But like you said mostly I just panicked. I would have done something more appropriate if I was aware that $100 is typical for family but I guess I didn’t ask anyone in the family (except my husband who did not know but thought my friend at work’s range sounded reasonable)

What do you think?!

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